Keeping Professional Learning Relevant and Current

How do you keep professional learning relevant and current?

I'm Morgan Cave, Apple Distinguished Educator (2019) and Director of Instructional Technology at Richardson ISD, right outside of Dallas, TX. I've been a public educator since 2005, when I started as a second grade teacher. A love for professional learning, both as a participant and facilitator, is what brought me out of the classroom and into Instructional Technology back in 2017. It is a highlight of my role to work alongside my team of instructional technology specialists, the iTeam, to design learning experiences for teachers that transform learning for students.


A collage that shows teachers engaging in professional learning, using their iPads.

As a former teacher, I deeply believe that everything we provide for teachers has to be relevant and timely. If they can't turn around and use it right away or address a current challenge, if it doesn't align with their goals, we have lost an opportunity and we have let our teachers down. Whether we are leading a full day of learning in our year long cohorts (#RISDAIM and #RISDTransform), meeting with a group after school, or coaching teachers in PLCs, we focus on key components to ensure that we provide high quality professional learning experiences:

🔑 Align technology best practices & expertise to campus and district initiatives. How does the technology or the strategy support existing priorities so that staff aren't being asked to focus on "one more thing"? How does this new learning become part of the work that is already underway? Some examples for us would be our district's Graduate Profile and our Board of Trustees' North Star Goal, and aligning to these keeps our sessions relevant, current, and impactful. This tenet also applies to new and emerging technology - while we as IT professionals may jump right in, balancing new technology with best practices & pedagogy ensures that we are current AND relevant when delivering professional learning.

🔑 Feedback is essential. If your goal is to deliver relevant professional learning, feedback is a must. As intentional and thoughtful as your design can be, participant feedback lets you know where you hit the mark, and where you didn't. Good questions ensure that the feedback is actionable. We like to use a form with a rating scale and only a handful of questions - if it is too long, teachers won't complete it. We leave optional open text after each question for further details. And of course, make sure you take time to review and consider feedback. We like to do this as a team and discuss what we might do differently. Sometimes after constructive feedback, we determine that making changes will change our intended outcomes, so we stay the course and remember in the future to speak to the why behind our design and methods. And this leads me to...

🔑 Be flexible and adaptive. While our vision for supporting teachers in designing engaging learning experiences for students that leverage technology doesn't change, our strategies, our examples, and our structure might. Oftentimes, this means adjusting based on feedback and experience, especially after the first time we run a session. Just like teaching, there are times in the middle of the lesson when you know that what you planned needs to be tweaked for your learners. Sometimes it's the technology itself that throws us a new curveball, a district or campus event, or even simply having a pulse on the current campus climate. Staying true to our goals while being open to changes that improve the experience is a cornerstone of success.

This video is an end of year reflection video, story spine style, from our 2023-34 #RISDAIM elementary teacher technology cohort. The cohort just wrapped up its 4th year and is one of our larger professional learning endeavors. Each year looks different, as we strive to adapt and change to stay relevant and current!

As our school year comes to an end this week, I am already mapping out and strategizing professional learning for 24-25. And yet, it's just a loosely sketched blueprint. It will change and gain more details as we continue in our work next school year.

How do you keep professional learning relevant and current?

All Replies

Posted on May 20, 2024

Thank you Morgan for sharing your leadership thoughts and path! Love the story spine video - that is a keeper to pass along as teachers reflect on their successes in a very creative way!

Posted on May 20, 2024

What a great post! I love the reflection video 🫶 Thank you for sharing your professional learning strategies.

Posted on May 20, 2024

The way I try to keep professional development. Relevant is to make sure I do some research before the session I’m presenting. I either reach out to the staff to find out what are some upcoming units or check out the scope and sequence. That way I can gather some relevant examples that align with the professional development.

Posted on May 21, 2024

Smart idea - know your audience!

Posted on May 21, 2024

Yes Lisa! This is so important when you want teachers to turn around and immediately use it! Thanks for chiming in!

Posted on May 21, 2024

I am so grateful to be a part of your iTeam, Morgan! #RISDAIM is an incredible cohort, and I love supporting our teachers in Richardson ISD. As a participant of AIM myself in 21-22, it completely transformed my teaching. Each session was impactful and relatable to my content and subject area. Due to the purposeful planning of each AIM session, I was able to take my learning back to my students as soon as the next day. When professional learning is current and relevant, it makes a much larger impact on the learner.

Posted on May 22, 2024

You always provide the best PL Morgan! I've learned so much working with you the past several years. One thing I like to do before a professional learning session is to look at what might be coming up in content, so that my teachers can have examples that they can apply right away. It helps me know where they are headed & how they can apply the content to them immediately. People are always so grateful when they learn a new tool or can apply something immediately. This method seems to get attendees excited about the learning & I think gets them coming back to our sessions!

Posted on June 06, 2024

Thanks so much for sharing, Morgan. I am at a private school in Australia, so we don't have 'districts' as such. However, I agree that professional learning should both support school-wide initiatives, but also be flexible enough to meet the needs of teachers. We are all professionals and at different levels of skills and knowledge in a range of areas (especially technology), so it is great when PL programs can strike that balance.

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